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Document Type

Book Chapter


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


E. Eric Knudson, Donald D. MacDonald, Yvonne K. Muirhead

Publication Date


Book Title

Sustainable Management of North American Fisheries


American Fisheries Society




American Fisheries Society Symposium


The factors that may either constrain or contribute to sustainable marine fisheries were examined by reviewing and analyzing the history and current status of several U.S. fisheries. Among major factors under consideration are inherent vulnerability (vulnerability in some species is high because of low intrinsic rates of increase and/or naturally infrequent recruitment); environmental degradation (fisheries may collapse because of anthropogenic habitat destruction); availability of data (information necessary co conduce accurate stock assessments may be inadequate for some species); quality of the scientific advice (inappropriate models or scientifically inaccurate assessments may be used); and effectiveness of management decisions (managers may disregard recommendations from scientific committees, and/or implement management measures chat are risk-prone). Fisheries that are examined include the Atlantic Coast striped bass Morone saxatilis fishery, the New England groundfish fishery, the Atlantic shark fishery, the Atlantic and Gulf reef fish fisheries, and the Pacific rockfish fishery. Although many of the factors listed above contributed co declines in these fisheries, the root cause in all cases was harvesting at rates that were much higher than could be sustained by recruitment. Management was largely ineffective because management decisions were risk-prone and motivated by short-term economic considerations rather than long-term sustainability. Only after passage of legislation not only authorizing but specifying mandatory stock rebuilding, has most management been sufficiently precautionary to allow sustainability.



Constraints on Sustainable Marine Fisheries in the United States: A Look at the Record